Project Management

What is Project Management?

What is Project Management?

Project Management Helps You:

  • check_circle_outline Deliver projects on time
  • check_circle_outline Stay within budget limits
  • check_circle_outline Organize and track project details
  • check_circle_outline Enhance collaboration and communication

Deliver projects on time

Anyone who’s overseen or participated in a project knows the grim reality — successful projects aren’t easy to achieve. And one of the primary measures of success is completing the project on time.

Yet nearly 40% of projects in 2018 failed to meet their intended timeline, according to a study conducted by Forrester.

Many factors can derail a project’s delivery, such as a change in a project’s priorities or objectives. When a project’s parameters aren’t defined and clearly stated, it’s easy for a project to swell beyond its original intent. That’s known as scope creep and, as you’d expect, it can wreak havoc on a timeline.

Project management software is built with a variety of tools that make it easier to control project scope and keep deliverables on time:

  • Gantt charts: This common feature provides a visual breakdown of a project’s stages, individual tasks and due dates. It also shows which person is responsible for each task.
  • Timelines: Similar to Gantt charts, timelines present project information visually. Some solutions have a drag-and-drop interface that makes it easy to rearrange items.
  • Task dependencies: Often, certain tasks can’t begin until others are completed. For example, publishing content on a website requires the website first to be built and wireframed. Proper project management tools allow you to link tasks that show dependencies so your team works on tasks in the right order.
  • The critical path: Every project has an essential list of tasks needed to complete it. The critical path helps identify those activities and the shortest amount of time required from start to finish. Tools that have this capability let you define and see the critical path in a Gantt chart or a similar layout.

Stay within budget limits

Staying on or under budget is another critical piece of a successful project. Materials, labor, equipment, services and contingency costs are some of the line items for any given project.

Projects that have a lot of moving parts or continually evolve to include additional specifications need constant supervision to ensure they remain within the budget.

Cost estimation is helpful for determining the size budget needed to support the project’s costs. There are a number of techniques you can use at different stages of the planning phase. But once a project is underway, it doesn’t take much for the actual costs to change.

Imagine a scenario where bad weather delays the construction of a new highway. This adds extra labor costs, and it may also require the purchase of additional materials.

Scope also impacts budgets. PMI research suggests roughly half of projects fall prey to scope creep, but any project is vulnerable to uncontrolled changes. Renovating an old home and discovering it needs significant upgrades to be up to code is a simple example.

Project management software provides several different ways to gain insights on budgets. We’ll look at the two most common: reports and dashboards.

Dashboards

The majority of applications have dashboards, ranging from simple views to comprehensive overviews of project data. Visibility into spending is essential for staying on top of costs. Dashboards summarize key metrics like billable hours and project spend.

Reports

Many systems also allow you to generate reports across a range of KPIs. This is helpful for tracking a project’s spending history. In addition, reports can compare projected versus actual costs for margin, margin rates, billable totals and more.

Organize and track project details

Some projects are small — e.g., publishing a newsletter. But many projects exist on a much larger scale. Examples include constructing a highrise, implementing an ERP system or rolling out a new product.

Any project involves details you need to organize and keep track of. The bigger the project, the more complicated that becomes. Project managers have to keep their finger on the pulse of hundreds if not thousands of data points such as direct and indirect costs, team member workloads, deadlines, etc. You can see how quickly it becomes overwhelming.

Because of this, project management is designed to streamline and organize everything, from who’s responsible for what deliverables to the individual tasks needed. Here are some of the main tools that help bring order to the chaos:

  • Resource management: You can view team member workloads and reassign work if necessary to keep things flowing smoothly.
  • Boards and cards: Boards provide a way to organize project workflows using columns, while cards can represent specific tasks or deliverables. This allows you to easily see particular details while keeping information organized.
  • Notifications: The system alerts users for a host of different cases, such as getting tagged or having a card assigned to them.
  • Attachments: All major systems let you attach files and many support integration with apps like Dropbox for easy file storage. This centralizes important project documents and makes them readily accessible.
  • Checklists:You can keep track of specific items related to tasks, phases and other project elements. Everyone can see what’s completed and what’s left to do.

Enhance collaboration and communication

Communication makes the world — and projects — go round. Without clear communication, problems are impossible to avoid. And the bigger the project, with the more people involved, the more essential it becomes to make collaboration as easy as possible.

It’s easy for things to fall through the cracks. You can picture what would happen if the project manager wasn’t alerted about a production bottleneck or only half the team knew about a tweak in the workflow.

Whatever the case may be, you can’t afford to have poor communication. That’s like trying to negotiate a peace treaty over the phone with a bad connection.

Fortunately, project management solutions are equipped with features that facilitate better collaboration and communication:

  • Guest access, which allows admins to invite external users and set permission levels
  • Comments and @tagging capability
  • Description fields
  • Activity feeds
  • Built-in due dates so it’s clear when a task needs to be finished by
  • Email integration for responding to comments and creating tasks from your inbox

FAQs: The Scoop on Project Management

What Is Project Management?

Project management is the process of overseeing a particular set of tasks that together form a project and are executed to produce a product, service or other deliverable. Unlike ongoing business activities, projects have a defined scope, occur within a set period of time and have a specific cost associated with them.

The Project Management Institute (PMI) defines five main stages of a project, known as the project management lifecycle:

  • Initiating
  • Planning
  • Executing
  • Monitoring and controlling
  • Closing

Using these stages, teams can effectively lay out and then accomplish an entire project.

What Is Project Management Software?

Project management software is used to help project managers oversee individual projects at a high level. These systems can:

  • Track the employees working on a project
  • Monitor the status of a project
  • Control costs to make sure they’re staying on budget
  • Aid in collaboration

In other words, it helps take your projects from start to finish while maintaining the designated budget and deadlines.

Project Management vs. PPM

Many organizations have multiple projects happening at once. Similar to tracking the details of a specific project, they also need to stay on top of each current project in order to allocate budget and resources accordingly as well as plan for the future.

That’s where project portfolio management (PPM) solutions come in handy. They include features that help organizations successfully execute a portfolio of projects at the same time while taking business strategies into consideration.

Who Is Project Management Software For?

Anyone can use project management tools, from individuals to organizations with multiple teams. It can bring benefits to companies in any industry, and the diverse range of products available covers project requirements from the most basic to the highly complex.

Users can include project managers, team members and external collaborators, such as clients or contractors.

What Are the Main Benefits of Project Management Software?

Every company, no matter the size, depends on successful project execution to complete business initiatives and conduct operations. Project management applications enable organizations to:

  • Keep projects aligned to their original purpose
  • Deliver the desired end result
  • Control scope creep
  • Give project managers visibility into key project data
  • Reveal bottlenecks
  • Effectively manage tasks
  • Streamline complex workflows

What Are Some Drawbacks of Project Management Software?

Although leveraging technology for project management can bring significant benefit to your company, they aren’t without drawbacks.

  • Cost: Apart from free versions, software isn’t cheap. And since many vendors use a SaaS model, the more users you need, the more you’ll pay. That can add up to a sizeable investment. You need to make sure the ROI justifies the cost.
  • User adoption: If your team is used to spreadsheets and post-it notes, transitioning to a software solution may be difficult. And a solution isn’t valuable unless teams use it and it makes their jobs easier.
  • Execution: Project management software is helpful for many things, but it can’t do everything. Individual team members are still responsible for doing the work.
  • Access: Giving external users the ability to view and edit project details is useful. But you need to be careful with the settings to ensure prying eyes aren’t accessing sensitive information.
  • Complexity: Having a lot of features is only helpful if you’ll use them. A system that comes with capabilities beyond what you need will be more confusing than it’s worth.

What Types of Project Management Software Are There?

The different types of project management software fall into two main categories: how they’re hosted and who they’re for.

Hosting

Cloud-based: Many solutions are hosted in the cloud, where the software exists on the vendor’s server and is used via the internet. This provides flexibility so users can access the platform from anywhere they have an internet connection.

On-premise: A few of the major platforms, such as Jira and Microsoft Project, also offer a self-hosted option. This lets you install the software on your company’s servers, giving you more control over the system and providing greater customization options.

Users

Team size: You can find a number of platforms that have a free version. While they don’t have the range of features and don’t support as many users as their premium counterparts, this can be a good option for smaller teams or individuals.

Methodology or use case: Some products are designed for specific project management methodologies, such as Agile project management. They may also have options for different types of teams: product development, marketing and so on.

What Are Some Examples of Project Management Software?

When looking for new software, it’s always helpful to get an idea of where to start. Airtable, Wrike and Smartsheet are all recognized products that can support a range of activities. Keep in mind that the right solution for your company will depend on your unique needs and goals.

For a full rundown of the top applications on the market, check out our analyst-picked project management Leaderboard. You can compare them side-by-side for a quick overview of how their capabilities stack up and to give you a jumping-off point for more in-depth research.

How Do I Select Project Management Software?

A simple Google search for “project management software” turns up more than a billion results. And while you’ve probably heard about products like Trello and Asana, there are hundreds more to choose from. Which other platforms are worth checking out? What should your process look like?

We recommend doing your homework. That includes gathering your requirements, evaluating products and giving the software a test. Many vendors offer free trials, which is the best way to determine if the software will be a good fit for your company.

We’ve put together some free resources to give you the information and tools you need to find the right solution for you.

The best place to start is our analyst comparison report. We also have an easy-to-use platform that will help you gather requirements, shortlist vendors, send out RFPs and ultimately choose the best project management tool for your needs.

Project Management Resources for Software Selection

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Project management articles are written and edited by:

Hunter Lowe

Team Lead Editor and Market Analyst

Hunter Lowe is a Team Lead Editor and Market Analyst at SelectHub. He writes content for Construction, Inventory, Warehouse, and Supply Chain Management.

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Project Management Thought Leaders

SelectHub has sought out and invited thought leaders to contribute to our project management industry articles and resources. These thought leaders ensure we deliver quality content with the most accurate information, focusing on what matters most. No thought leader is compensated for their contributions, but shares our belief that information should be democratized so everyone can make the best decision.

Elizabeth Harrin

Elizabeth Harrin

Director, Otobos Consultants Ltd

Elizabeth Harrin, MA, FAPM, MBCS is Director of Otobos Consultants Ltd, a project communications consultancy specialising in copywriting for project-driven firms.

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Shane Anastas

Shane Anastasi

Founder & CEO, PS Principles

Shane Anastasi is the Founder & CEO of PS Principles, a leading provider of professional services skills development and certifications.

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Alan Zucker

Alan Zucker

Founding Principal, Project Management Essentials, LLC

I share my passion for project management and leadership through keynote speaking, training and advisory services.

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Brett Harned

Brett Harned

Director of Education, TeamGantt

Brett Harned is a digital project manager with a deep investment in the practice, its value in the larger digital industry, and the growing community.

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Project Management Trends: PM Software in 2020 and Beyond

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Successful project management isn’t just about keeping your resources and tasks organized. In order to really stay ahead of the curve, you need to know about the latest project management software tools and techniques affecting the industry. That’s why we spoke to several experts to get their thoughts on the project management trends we’ll see in 2020 and the years to come.

Zachary TotahProject Management Trends: PM Software in 2020 and Beyond
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10 Most Popular PPM Tools in 2020

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Project Portfolio Management (PPM) is a part of overall business planning that is taking off in the business world — it’s something that is expected to grow on the global market, a multibillion-dollar industry that adds specific kinds of functionality to business software.

The essential use of PPM tools relates to scheduling and general project management. By aggregating data and composing excellent reports and analysis, these tools can help companies track project progress through every stage. With transparent end-to-end process visibility, companies are able to make business processes more efficient, automate aspects of business, and otherwise innovate for the 21st century.

SelectHub10 Most Popular PPM Tools in 2020
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PMO Software: Everything You Need to Know

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Any type of iterative work can quickly get out of hand if not monitored closely. To solve this issue, you set up procedures and standards that your team needs to follow. But then after a few weeks, you notice employees completing tasks out of order. Or possibly you see many tasks go unfinished. This is where a PMO comes in. PMO stands for “project management office,” a dedicated department for defining and maintaining the standards of individual assignments. But your PMO doesn’t have to tackle this responsibility alone, which is precisely why PMO software, a type of project management software, exists.

Kim O'ShaughnessyPMO Software: Everything You Need to Know
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Asana vs Jira: Which Project Management Software is the Winner?

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Welcome to the project management software arena. Today, Asana vs Jira will square off in a showdown to determine which PM tool deserves to stand in the winner’s circle.

With so many project management solutions on the market, finding the right one can feel as daunting as picking the winner of the Kentucky Derby. Our goal with this article is to equip you with the information you need to make an informed decision.

Zachary TotahAsana vs Jira: Which Project Management Software is the Winner?
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Project Management Scope and How to Leverage PM Software

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Tiffany has a big task on her plate — plan and oversee the launch of a new website for her client, Bob’s Better Burgers. The thing is, without proper planning, projects are a hard beast to tame. One minute they’re like a well-organized circus routine, with dozens of moving parts blending together and moving in harmony. Then one piece gets out of line and chaos descends.

That’s where using project management software and having project management scope is a life-saver. Want to prep for a project that’s a roaring success? Define the boundaries of the project to get an exact framework for what to include — and not include.

Zachary TotahProject Management Scope and How to Leverage PM Software
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Trello vs Asana: Which Is Better for Managing Your Projects?

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Project management software is the engine that drives successful projects. Pick the right solution and it will handle anything you throw at it, removing the chaos projects can bring and giving you back control. But make the wrong choice and you might as well start saving your weekends for all the extra work.

With so many project management tools to choose from, how do you know which one’s right for you? We compared two of the top PM tools on the market to help make your search for the right software a little easier. Buckle up for a head-to-head comparison of Trello vs Asana.

Zachary TotahTrello vs Asana: Which Is Better for Managing Your Projects?
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Project Management Software Evaluation: How to Find the Right PM Software

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Does your team still run its projects from a cluttered, clunky Excel spreadsheet? Do you even have any processes in place for handling projects? If not, it’s time for an upgrade. Project management software is the equivalent of Marie Kondo — it’ll sweep into the life of your projects and bring order to the chaos. But only if you pick the right solution. We put together a project management software evaluation guide to help you do just that.

Zachary TotahProject Management Software Evaluation: How to Find the Right PM Software
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Wrike vs Asana: Which Project Management Software is the Winner?

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Wrike vs Asana … which of these project management software products wins in a feature-by-feature comparison? That’s the question we asked, and that’s the question we’ll answer for you in this post.

Our analyst team put together an analysis of these two PM systems to help you figure out which one is a better choice for your company.

Zachary TotahWrike vs Asana: Which Project Management Software is the Winner?
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PPM Requirements: What Are the Top Features of Project Portfolio Management Software?

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Look anywhere in the corporate environment today and you’ll see projects in the works and underway — or past deadline. With dozens or even hundreds of projects in motion across an organization, the need for project portfolio management has become as necessary as the traffic signals and signs that keep roads from becoming a frenzied mess. Project portfolio management software is the equivalent of those signs and signals. PPM software provides capabilities to optimize resources, manage risk, improve project performance and cut costs while hitting project goals. The first step on that road to more efficient and effective projects across your organization is laying out your PPM requirements.

Zachary TotahPPM Requirements: What Are the Top Features of Project Portfolio Management Software?
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10 Project Management Software Features That’ll Make Your Life Easier

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Have you looked in the mirror lately and said to yourself, “I wish my life were more difficult”? I’m no fortune teller, but I’m willing to bet that thought isn’t even on your radar. Heck, it’s probably not even in the same universe as you are. If you’re a project manager, life’s stressed and frazzled enough. Which is why you need project management software features that will ease the burden and bring some order to the chaos.

Zachary Totah10 Project Management Software Features That’ll Make Your Life Easier
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Program Management vs Portfolio Management vs Project Management

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Every business, from startups to fortune 500 corporations, needs to implement some form of project management. It’s the discipline through which every project and task gets accomplished. But it can be hard to find the best project management software if you aren’t equipped with the right vocabulary. What exactly are the differences when it comes to project management vs program management vs portfolio management?

Both program and portfolio management are closely related to project management, which often leads to confusion. But there are stark differences that separate the three. In light of this, we wanted to help clear things up and highlight the differences between project vs program vs portfolio management.

Kim O'ShaughnessyProgram Management vs Portfolio Management vs Project Management
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IT Project Management Software Requirements Checklist

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IT can be intimidating if you’re not the most tech-savvy person. That means making and implementing IT project goals can be challenging when many project managers aren’t necessarily IT experts. Luckily, IT project management software exists to make the process smoother and better for everyone. To find the perfect solution for your organization, you have to start by gathering your IT project management software requirements. We’ve compiled a convenient checklist to help you get started:

Bergen AdairIT Project Management Software Requirements Checklist
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Software for Project Managers

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The most successful project managers don’t go it alone. Although they’re more than self-sufficient, they find that most successful projects are completed with the aid of project management software. Businesses today are looking to optimize every aspect of their operations, and project management is one area that can’t be overlooked.

SelectHubSoftware for Project Managers
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